HASH(0xb3e898)

HASH(0xb3e898)

Trainer Casse not giving up on Classic Empire running in Kentucky Derby

Casse hopeful of Derby run for Classic Empire

Mark Casse hasn’t given up on Classic Empire taking a run at the Kentucky Derby.

The champion three-year-old colt was treated last weekend for a back problem Casse figures came about after the horse developed a foot abscess following a third-place finish in the Grade 2 US$350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park. The son of Pioneerof the Nile was treated by an equine therapist Saturday then examined Sunday by Casse’s vet.

On Monday, Casse was hopeful Classic Empire, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and North American thoroughbred racing’s top two-year-old last year, would resume training later this week.

“He’s looking good,” Casse said in a telephone interview. “We’ve had everything go wrong so far but if we can have everything go right from this point on we can still win the Kentucky Derby, there’s no doubt in my mind.

“I haven’t given up and honestly not once have I said, ‘We’re beat, we’re not going to make it.’ “

Classic Empire could run in the Grade 2 $1-million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes slated for Keeneland on April 8. But Casse cautioned Classic Empire’s next race will come when he’s fully healthy.

“Until we feel he’s at his best we’re not going to  run,” Casse said. “The only promise I’m going to make is when he comes back, you’ll see the real Classic Empire.

“If it takes a month, if it takes two months, if it takes a year, when you see him you’ll see the real Classic Empire because he has shown how truly talented he is.”

The American-owned and bred Classic Empire won four-of-five races last year and amassed earnings over $1.4 million. He capped the ’16 season beating 5-2 favourite Not This Time by a neck in the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

But the back ailment left Casse wondering if he somehow missed a sign Classic Empire was hurting.

“I feel like I let him down a little bit,” Casse said. “But he’s such a tough son of a gun that he didn’t give us any indication his foot was bothering him.

“But if you saw it two days after the race, you would’ve seen how badly it was and you’ve got to know it was there in the race and that’s probably why he acted and performed the way he did. Unfortunately, they can’t talk . . . I think a normal horse would’ve given us enough indications that we wouldn’t have run him but like I said, he’s tough.”

Ideally, Casse would’ve preferred to run Classic Empire in three prep events before heading to Churchill Downs in Lousville, Ky. But the eight-time winner as Canada’s top trainer feels there’s still plenty of time for Classic Empire to reach peak condition for the Derby on May 6.

“We deal with issues like this all the time,” said Casse, a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. “Classic Empire probably was having some type of back spasms but unfortunately for a horse like him, when he does everybody in the racing world sees it.

“Every little thing he does is under such focus.”

Casse also offered an update on Tepin, last year’s Grade 1 $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile champion and North American racing’s top female turf horse in 2015-16. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner missed last month’s Grade 3 $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes with a stomach ailment but Casse said no decisions have been made regarding when the six-year-old will breeze.

“She’s very happy right now but as I was telling someone recently, ‘This is Tepin’s world, we just live in it,'” Casse said with a chuckle. “There’s no rush.

“This will be her last year, for sure, and we’re not going to give her as hard a campaign as we did last year, probably three, four races and hopefully ending in at the Breeders’ Cup.”

And Tepin, affectionately dubbed “Queen of The Turf,” has her share of fans.

“I got a very nice card from a young lady,” Casse said. “There’s a picture of (Tepin) running on the front and on the inside were four peppermints.

“And she wrote, ‘Dear Tepin, hope you feel better. See you hopefully soon. Good luck at your next race. Hope you like the bag of peppermints.’ That’s really quite cute.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Just Posted

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read